The next miracle (v11.1): Owen Youngman

Knight Professor of Digital Media Strategy, Medill / Northwestern

Owen YoungmanOwen YoungmanOwen Youngman

We celebrate the book, and sing the e-book

IMG_2369 IMG_2362IMG_2371Looking at Julia Keller’s new e-short story: My Kindle Fire, Kindle DX, and Nexus 7. Admittedly, none of this hardware is of recent vintage…

This Saturday (June 7), I’ll be returning to the Chicago Tribune Printers Row Lit Fest for the first time in a couple of years. It’s the 30th anniversary of an event that was called the Printers Row Book Fair when we acquired it from the Near South Planning Board a dozen years ago. My longtime colleague and Tribune literary editor Elizabeth Taylor invited me back for a panel called “The Digital Revolution,” its general topic being “the many digital developments that are transforming the publishing industry.” (Event details at the end of this post.)

As it happens, the first thing that Liz and I worked on together was itself a “digital development”—a standalone Web site for the Tribune books section called “Chicago Books,” developed for us by Jimmy Guterman and which launched in August of 1997 even though only a fraction of the section’s readers were yet even online — and when, according to my files, a week of 30,000 Books page views was a big deal. (If you want to re-enter that version of the world, check out this piece by Donna Seaman from that month: “Learning to Crawl: Book Lovers Go On-Line.”)

Also as it happens, this is also the week in my Coursera MOOC “Understanding Media by Understanding Google” where one of the two topics being discussed is the impact of the Web in general, and Google in particular, on the book business (the other is the news business). One of the ideas I have put out for agreement or disagreement is taken from Steven Levy’s In the Plex, in which he quotes librarian John Wilkin of the University of Michigan: “Twenty years from now, interaction with a physical book will be rare. Most of that interaction will be in the study of books as artifacts.”

Does my worldwide student body agree? Continue reading

So what are you seeing in your Google Glass?

Sandia Mountains

The Sandia Mountains near Santa Fe, #throughglass

The Glass Chronicles, III: Summer of #glass

Okay, so I didn’t take Google Glass to Italy in July. It seemed to me, as I was packing, that I wanted neither the distraction of explaining it to security guards, nor the potential data-roaming charges from tethering it to my iPhone as I was wandering around Milan, Venice, Florence, and Rome. (Also, after a solid month of videotaping lectures for my MOOC about the media and Google, the idea of taking the device threatened to make the trip feel like work instead of vacation.) In retrospect, however, I can see that my fellow tourists might have had some good ideas about how to deploy it, and that the convenience of hands-free operation of a good digital camera might have been  worthwhile … as long as I didn’t turn into one of those people who snaps photos inside the Uffizi without actually looking at the art.

Santa Fe Opera #throughglass

Santa Fe Opera, #throughglass

That lesson learned, it was an easier call to take Glass to Santa Fe for a couple of weeks in August. First of all, there was the necessity of actually using the add-on sunglasses that I modeled in my previous post. Second, no roaming charges, even while roaming near the Santa Fe Opera. And third, what a fine place to get a few more ideas from “real people.” One outcome is that I decided that the results of Medill’s spring survey of mobile users about Glass are pretty much on the money: Easily half of the people I encountered knew exactly what I was wearing — and  most of them claimed interest in joining the ranks of the Glassy-eyed. (Well, maybe not the cashier in the chocolate shop, but definitely the one in the jewelry store.) Continue reading

Further adventures in the land of the MOOC

Friday when I went by my office at Medill, I found this image taped to the doorjamb. One of my colleagues had cheerfully appended a headline: “OWEN YOUNGMAN: A MAN AND HIS MOOC.”

Either that, or by the looks of it, a man transfixed by what he sees through his Google Glass.

In either event, two days earlier I had taken to social media to note that the long path to launching “my” (and Medill’s, and Northwestern’s) first massively open online course had briefly wound from a thicket into a clearing. The team from NUIT NUAMPS ( the Northwestern University Advanced Media Production Studio) had finished capturing my last planned Google+ Hangout-based interview, the last of more than 20 planned video elements. The night before, we’d confirmed a Sept. 16 launch date for the six-week course.

(You have enrolled, right? You’ve at least watched the updated promotional video? I’ll wait here.) Continue reading

Hail, Glass of 2013

The Glass Chronicles, II: Land of Stares and Sharing

Glass observers at graduation

I’ve never seen that before — have you? Maybe we should take a picture….

Commencement comes late to Northwestern. I mean, was anybody else in America actually hanging around school last week? For example, by the time I got to Medill for its two convocations on Saturday, it had been six weeks since I attended graduation ceremonies in historic Hinkle Fieldhouse at Butler University, where nephew Tim has been pursuing his master’s degree in music composition.

This year’s wait wound up being beneficial, however, due to an accident of timing. Graduation arrived just 3 days after Google Glass, giving your intrepid reporter a chance to try it out in a large crowd at a substantial public event and pursue the answers to a few carefully selected questions:

  • How well would it “go” with academic regalia,
    Photo by Rich Gordon

    Photo by Rich Gordon (Click image for larger view)

    which after all were the height of style in the 12th and 13th Centuries more than the 21st? Continue reading

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